Sometimes I have to pinch myself, as it seems I have landed the best job in the world, teaching mindfulness meditation, but also training committed mindfulness practitioners to teach mindfulness so that we can all experience the benefit of mindfulness. I had one of those ‘pinch myself’ moments at the end of our introductory teaching skills training course this last weekend. One of the key things we aim to communicate to our trainee teachers – verbally and non-verbally – is that the key skill is to turn up as oneself and be fully present as we are – warts and all! Then if we are fully present we trust our teaching to emerge of its own accord, arising from our embodied presence. A mysterious message to communicate, when participants are perhaps expecting to learn ‘techniques of teaching mindfulness’ and receive clear answers to the ‘what if this happens in my class?’ questions.
However, as we had our final ending ceremony, I felt the message had been received loud and clear. One by one participants shared with the full group how this mindfulness course had given them the permission to be themselves and to allow a process of trusting emergence in their teaching practice. Here are some of the comments on the feedback forms that reflect this:
“Thank you as always to the attentive caring leaders and for giving this space to be our authentic selves.”
“This weekend has really helped me to be ‘myself’ again.”
At the start of the weekend, the four tutors shared our experiences of when we had been less than ‘perfect’ in our teaching practice and some of the calamities that had befallen us. Some were amusing, such as the time I was teaching mindfulness with a cold and spat out my lozenge while speaking, then couldn’t find it. Then how it turned up later that week stuck to my meditation shawl during another mindfulness class. Some were experiences of genuine difficulty, when participants became angry, upset or wouldn’t speak or wouldn’t stop speaking and how we struggled to deal with that. I think this is critical for trainee Mindfulness meditation teachers to understand, because they see us sitting calmly at the front of the class and might project on to us supreme equanimity, when really we are feeling a whole mix of feelings – anger, fear, embarrassment, uncertainly – and are just doing our best to ground ourselves and hold our seat!
I was fortunate to be working with three excellent friends and fellow MA tutors, Chloe, Kristine and Alan and the feedback forms reflects this:
“I always appreciate the attention to detail, the building up of skills in an incremental way. The embodied skills of the teachers is very evident and inspiring.”
“It is an incredible experience of self growth with unlimited opportunity. Well- structured and beautifully led by experienced, heart centred humans.”
The phrase ‘trust emergence’ comes from Gregory Kramer’s book ‘Insight Dialogue’, which is a core mindfulness book from the course. It points to the reality of any situation, which is that we have very little control. If we can let go of the delusion of control, then we are more in touch with the reality of countless causes and conditions, way beyond our control, generating what is arising in any moment in our mindfulness groups. We learn to let go of control, let go of our discursive thoughts about what to do next and instead tune into the deeper embodied wisdom that our mindfulness practice has uncovered and teach from whatever emerges here. When I can do that in my own teaching practice, that is when the magic happens and there is a profound and authentic communication between the humans present.
During the weekend, each participant led a 10 minute mindfulness practice and a 10 minute enquiry in their tutor group and then received feedback. This is always quite a vulnerable and delicate process, which gives rise to quite a lot of anxiety and which as tutors we aim to facilitate as kindly as possible, while keeping everyone safe. Here is some feedback about that process:
“I love practice and the opportunity to guide and enquire in this environment has been amazing.”
“It is a very valuable experience trying out our teaching skills in a safe and friendly space, getting the feedback from our peers and tutors, sharing our fears and aspirations.”
What is wonderful this time is that our Mindfulness book: The Mindfulness Based Living Course will be available to these teachers to use as their course manuals once they have completed their teacher training. The book is published on the 30th of November and can be pre-ordered here.
There is also our free Mindfulness app (Mindfulness Based Living on the App Store for ios and on the Google Play Store for Android) to go with the book so anyone buying it is able to fully explore the question of ‘What is Mindfulness’ and to develop a beneficial mindfulness practice by learning the mindfulness meditation techniques and going through a graduated set of mindfulness exercises, which are set out in the book. Enjoy!
So if you are a mindfulness practitioner and have benefited from your practice, then you have something authentic to share with others and might consider training to teach yourself. To practice being yourself completely, not afraid to fail, not attached to succeeding, and willing to trust emergence. I can testify that this is a great way to teach mindfulness and to live one’s life.